How to set up a fast 802.11ac wireless network

Make the switch from 802.11n to 802.11ac in order to turbo-boost your file transfers

Which 802.11ac router should I buy?

There are many products you can consider that feature the 802.11ac standard, primarily from vendors such as Netgear and Belkin, but smaller players such as Billion and TP-Link have now also joined the fray. They don't all have the same 802.11ac speed, and the other features they support can vary depending on the price. If you want the fastest current 802.11ac speed, you will have to spring for a router that can do 1300Mbps. Note that not many client devices can reach this speed, with most topping out at 867Mbps.

Look for a product with Gigabit Ethernet ports if you plan on connecting desktop PCs and network attached storage (NAS) devices, as this will give you the quickest throughput from those devices to your wireless network. Furthermore, you might want a USB port or two in order to plug in and share external hard drives or printers.

If you have an ADSL2+ connection, you can consider a wireless router that also has an ADSL2+ modem built in. This will make set-up a cinch as it means you only have to configure one device and take up one socket on your power strip.

Some of the 802.11ac wireless router products currently available are listed below, with their maximum supported speed. Note that some of the products below use the draft version of 802.11ac. The 802.11ac standard was only ratified at the end of 2013.

Wireless routers only

Model802.11ac speed
Asus RT-AC56Uup to 867Mbps
Asus RT-AC66Uup to 1300Mbps
Belkin AC 1200 up to 867Mbps
Belkin AC 1750 up to 1300Mbps
Billion BiPAC 8800AXL up to 1300Mbps
D-Link DIR-810L up to 433Mbps
D-Link DIR-850Lup to 867Mbps
D-Link DIR-865Lup to 1300Mbps
D-Link DIR-868L up to 1300Mbps
D-Link DIR-880L up to 1300Mbps
Linksys EA6300 up to 867Mbps
Linksys EA6700 up to 1300Mbps
Linksys EA6900 AC1900 up to 1300Mbps
Linksys WRT1900AC up to 1300Mbps
Netgear AC1200 (R6200)up to 867Mbps
Netgear AC1750 (R6300) up to 1300Mbps
Netgear Nighthawk (R7000) up to 1300Mbps
TP-Link AC750 (Archer C2) up to 433MHz
TP-Link AC1350 (Archer C5) up to 867Mbps
TP-Link AC1750 (Archer C7) up to 1300Mbps

Wireless ADSL2+ modem routers

Read more: How to extend your wireless network

Model802.11ac speed
Belkin AC1200up to 867Mbps
Belkin AC1800up to 1300Mbps
D-Link DSL-2875ALup to 433Mbps
D-Link DSL-2880AL up to 900Mbps
D-Link DSL-2890AL up to 1300Mbps
Netgear AC1200 (D6200) up to 867Mbps

802.11ac USB adapters

• Asus USB-AC53
• Asus PCE-AC66
• Belkin AC Wi-Fi USB (F9L1109au)
• D-Link DWA-171
• D-Link DWA-182
• Linksys WUSB6300
• Netgear AC1200 (A6200)
• Netgear AC600 (A6100)

You can also find 802.11ac in many new laptops. Look for laptops that feature Intel's Wireless-AC 7260 wireless adapter. These run at up to 867Mbps and can provide file transfers over 40 megabytes per second in some cases. In general we have found laptop with in-built 802.11ac Wi-Fi to perform better than USB adapters. If you have a PC, then you will have to use a USB adapter to give it an 802.11ac capability.

Next instalment: How to extend the coverage of your wireless network.

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Elias Plastiras
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